Effective public engagement is key to the delivery of CCS & other infrastructure projects


The social dimension is an important component of delivering operational CCS projects. Within the REALISE project, Dr Niall Dunphy is leading a work package that is examining the social, political and commercial context for CCS deployment. His recent paper emphasises the importance of appropriately designed education and public engagement (EPE) programmes.

Dunphy highlights the need to engage meaningfully and respectfully with prospective host communities and related societal stakeholders.

Achieving carbon neutrality is not just a technological challenge. Realising decarbonisation will both require, and will result in, substantial societal and socio-economic change. Such transformation on the scale required, makes it just as much a social challenge,” he says.

Many proposed infrastructure projects, including CCS projects, are abandoned due to societal opposition and the consequential socio-political challenges that arise. One reason for this is poorly thought-out, and thus ineffective, public engagement.

Dunphy’s team has reviewed thirteen EPE programmes concerned with CCS or the deployment of other types of infrastructure. Based on a comprehensive desk study and a series of in-depth interviews, they identified and described the methods used in each programme, analysed the key challenges and documented good practices.

The results of this research offer some guidance on how to design and deliver more effective EPE programmes. A central theme is the importance of developing and maintaining trust with both the general public and specific communities that are the intended audience of the programmes. In this respect, early engagement (before significant decisions have been made) and effective communication (e.g., using both formal and informal modes), help build trust and foster a degree of ownership of the project within prospective host communities.

The research indicates that engaging with societal (and other) stakeholders should be considered an ongoing process and not a one-off exercise. Communication should flow in two directions and encourage feedback. Moving from a ‘decide-announce-defend’ to a ‘consult-consider-modify’ approach contributes to more effective engagement and leads to more informed and responsive decision-making.

Dunphy’s team is currently using the insights gleaned from this research to develop and trial an EPE programme for a case study in Ireland. “Tailoring EPE to the intended audience is so important to increase its effectiveness,” he observes.  “A more open, inclusive process is vital to achieve good communication with communities and the wider public”.


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